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Evans v. Utah Department of Transportation

Court of Appeals of Utah

November 1, 2018

Jamie Evans and Evans Billboards LLC, Appellants,
v.
Utah Department of Transportation, Appellee.

          Fourth District Court, Provo Department The Honorable Lynn W. Davis No. 130400213

          Troy L. Booher, Julie J. Nelson, and Steve K. Gordon, Attorneys for Appellants

          Sean D. Reyes, Stanford E. Purser, Mark E. Burns, and Renee Spooner, Attorneys for Appellee

          Judge Gregory K. Orme authored this Opinion, in which Judges Michele M. Christiansen Forster and Kate A. Toomey concurred.

          OPINION

          ORME, JUDGE.

         ¶1 Appellants Jamie Evans and Evans Billboards LLC (collectively, Evans) appeal the district court's decision upholding the denial of two outdoor advertising applications by the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT). We reverse.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶2 In 2008, Evans submitted applications to construct two advertising signs near Exit 257 on Interstate 15 (I-15) in Spanish Fork, Utah. Because the sign locations were within 500 feet of an interchange, violating the Utah Outdoor Advertising Act, see Utah Code Ann. § 72-7-505(3)(c)(i)(A) (LexisNexis Supp. 2017), [1]UDOT denied both applications. Evans nevertheless erected the two signs. The district court ordered Evans to remove them, and Evans appealed that decision to this court. See Spanish Fork City v. Evans Grader & Paving, Inc., 2014 UT App 178, 332 P.3d 980. We affirmed, holding that both signs were "illegal and . . . subject to removal" because they were constructed without a permit. Id. ¶ 6.

         ¶3 Following UDOT's 2008 denial of Evans's applications, UDOT reconfigured Exit 257 as part of its I-15 Core Project. Exit 257 now gives drivers the option of leaving I-15 southbound to connect to either U.S. Highway 6 (US-6) or Spanish Fork Main Street (SR-156). It has three exit lanes: two of those lanes form a bridge to cross over I-15 and connect to US-6 eastbound, and the other lane continues parallel to I-15 until it connects to SR-156.

         ¶4 In 2012, following this reconfiguration, Evans once again applied for two sign permits for essentially the same locations. UDOT denied those applications because it determined that the proposed signs were still within 500 feet of the interchange at Exit 257. Evans challenged this decision in the district court. Affirming UDOT's denial of the applications, the district court determined that the signs violated the Utah Outdoor Advertising Act because the Act's purpose "is to protect the 500 foot area around an interchange from advertising signs." Evans appeals.

         ISSUE AND STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶5 Evans's primary contention is that the district court misinterpreted the meaning of an "intersecting highway" under the statutory definition of "pavement widening" in the Utah Outdoor Advertising Act. "We review questions of statutory interpretation for correctness, affording no deference to the district court's legal conclusions." Bank of America v. Adamson, 2017 UT 2, ¶ 7, 391 P.3d 196 (quotation simplified).

         ANALYSIS

         ¶6 The Utah Outdoor Advertising Act (the Act) is "the statutory basis for the regulation of outdoor advertising," balancing concerns of "public safety"[2] and preservation of "the natural scenic beauty of lands bordering on highways," with the goal of ensuring that outdoor advertising remains "a standardized medium of communication throughout the state." Utah Code Ann. § 72-7-501(1) (LexisNexis 2009). The Act fulfills the Utah-Federal Agreement, which conditions the grant of federal highway funds to Utah on "Utah agree[ing] to manage and regulate outdoor advertising along the federal highway system." Utah Admin. Code R933-5-1. See generally 23 U.S.C. § 131 (2012) (The Highway Beautification Act); Utah Admin. Code R933-5-2 (The Utah-Federal Agreement).

         ¶7 Under the Act, signs are prohibited within 500 feet of an interchange. Utah Code Ann. § 72-7-505(3)(c)(i)(A) (LexisNexis Supp. 2017). An interchange is an area "where traffic is channeled off or onto an interstate route." Id. § 72-7-502(11). The 500-foot prohibition around the interchange is "measured along the interstate highway or freeway from the sign to the nearest point of the beginning or ending of pavement widening at the exit from or entrance to the main-traveled way." Id. § 72-7-505(3)(c)(i)(A). The pavement widening is (1) the point of the gore or (2) "where the intersecting lane begins to parallel the other lanes of traffic." Id. § 72-7-502(22). See also Young Elec. Sign Co. v. Utah ...


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